Heaven’s perspective: Africa from above

Posted by Mishqah Schippers on 5 August 2021

A decade ago, Jan and Jay Roode left a corporate life in pursuit of adventure. With just 60 hours under his belt, Jan took off in their modified Jabiru airplane, Jay beside him, camera in hand. Ten years, 1 000 hours and 100 0000 nautical miles later, the Roodes have had countless adventures and an exceptional collection of aerial photographs to prove it.

Fishermen of Zalala haul their seine net ashore (Mozambique).

Husband and wife team Jan and Jay Roode have spent years in the African skies, photographing our continent from above.

‘We had no idea what was out there but we embraced its unknown secrets with the enthusiasm of children on a treasure hunt,’ says Jay.

The Roodes have captured a decade of aerial moments over South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Botswana, recording unique perspectives of both Africa’s wildlife and people. Their newly published book, Aerial Art, is a culmination of this extraordinary effort, resulting in an instantly recognisable collection of remarkable images.

Suspended in time; a sense of waiting pervades this valley where little has happened for a thousand years. The shadow of an ancient camel thorn reaches out, like a blackened hand to the delicate tracings of the Tsauchab River, yearning for the life that once was (Namibia).

Sleeping under the wing of their plane, hitching rides on cargo trucks and donkey carts, Jan and Jay have had as many adventures on land as they have in the air.

A fuel leak once forced them to land on a small island in the Quirimbas Archipelago, off the coast of northern Mozambique, on an abandoned airfield where they collided with the only nearby tree. ‘The right wing broke as the plane almost overturned and aviation fuel poured into the cockpit, drenching us,’ Jay remembers.

The most ancient of water dowsers. Wandering the red dust plains of Damaraland, herds of desert-adapted elephant manage to find water under the burning sands, sinking wells with heel and trunk. In a sun-seared landscape, seemingly incapable of supporting life, they manage to drink deep (Namibia).

Flamingos flare over the emerald ocean in a surge of pink and white (Tambuzi, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique).

In the NamibRand Nature Reserve, the long shadow of a lone oryx bull stands enclosed by a fairy circle, one of the Namib’s most mysterious phenomena (Namibia).

Stranded, with an unflyable aircraft, getting the plane off that island was no easy feat, and involved a small group of local fishermen cutting off the wings and carrying the plane down to the beach, loading it onto a dhow and sailing 60 nautical miles to Pemba. She returned 12 months later, good as new. ‘We gave her a pat, climbed in and headed north to Botswana,’ says Jay.

Surreal and strangely protozoan, the vast calciferous pans of Etosha are transformed into a labyrinth of waterways after unseasonable rains (Namibia).

The specially modified aircraft is silent, not disturbing the wildlife and people below, allowing uninterrupted and intimate photography. From the air, Jan and Jay have seen first-hand the extensive damage being done in remote and unmonitored regions of Southern Africa. With her photographs, Jay hopes to inspire conservation of these wild spaces, this jewel of a planet.

A percentage of sales from their prints goes directly to an environmental organisation based in the country each photo was taken in.

A surreal blend of white sands and quicksilver pools stretch to the limitless horizon. This is the edge of Gondwanaland, great and jagged, and it lies undisturbed but for a few youths crossing a seemingly boundless playground (Mozambique).

A lioness prowls along deep pathways carved into the golden Moremi grasslands by herds of plains game and hippo (Botswana).

Get Aerial Art at HPH Publishing; R895 for the standard edition

A farmer’s moiré pattern of wheat surrounds a pylon in the Eastern Free State (South Africa).

Lured to these shores by the promise of diamonds, the Eduard Bohlen, one of Namibia’s most alluring wrecks, lies forgotten in a mausoleum of sand at Conception Bay (Namibia).

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